Sarkrista – Sworn to Profound Heresy Review

No one likes to be misled. Money is tight, we have bills to pay, so we all wanna know what we’re spending our precious cash on. When you see an album entitled “Sworn to Profound Heresy,” with a cover featuring malevolent-looking priests surrounding a burning church, you probably think you know what’s in store. When those clouds of billowing smoke feature an image of the dark lord, and the band is named after a church sexton, you might think that this was some satanic, second wave-worshipping black metal, probably from a bunch of European veterans. Well… you’d be absolutely right! If that seems like a somewhat unoriginal and anticlimactic sentence after a build-up that promised a surprise twist, then you’re well primed for what’s in store with Sworn to Profound Heresy, the third album from German duo, Sarkrista.

Sworn to Profound Heresy, in case you were worried, does not mislead in any way. In fact, like its predecessor, 2017’s Summoners of the Serpent’s Wrath, it’s a remarkably honest album, wearing its blackened colors on its spiky sleeve. This is both a blessing and a curse, because from the outset, you know exactly what’s in store. Sarkrista’s sound hearkens back to a simpler time, when black metal performers were corpse-painted, the music was harsh, recording equipment was lousy, and the only thing “atmospheric” was the hole in the ozone layer slowly scorching us into oblivion. These guys pay clear homage to the more melodic influence of forbearers Emperor, Watain, and Dissection. Sarkrista takes this sound… and reproduces it. Entertainingly. Energetically. But almost exactly. Sworn to Profound Heresy is therefore fun, but also frustratingly familiar.

For much of its duration, Sworn to Profound Heresy is a devilishly good time. The songs manage to effortlessly tap into the secret recipe that made the early second-wave bands so popular: a balance between icy harshness and vicious melodicism. The catchy tremolo-picking and furious blast-beats combine to create tracks that entertain gloriously. From opener “Sworn to Profound Heresy,” the quality remains high throughout, with “Ablazing Ritual Torches” and “The Chosen Ones of Satan” being particular highlights. The riffs are not complicated, but they’re toe-tappingly catchy and have a pleasingly nostalgic air about them. Modern black metal bands sometimes water down their Satanic impulses, but Sarkrista, happily, doubles down on the blasphemy. Whether howling, “I sold my soul, to the devil!” or “We are the ones/ the chosen ones of Satan!”, the band manages to successfully walk the line between poker-faced seriousness and wearying self-effacing irony. It’s all tremendous fun.

The major downside to Sworn to Profound Heresy is the lack of any variance or originality. This album has such a familiar sound that it could easily have been released in the early 90s. But what sounded fresh and dangerous back then sounds a bit repetitive and copy-cat now. Sarkrista does very little to separate itself from the bands its members so obviously worship. The themes, the riffs, the drum-rolls, even the progressions, have all been done before, sometimes by Sarkrista themselves. I played the band’s previous album and this back-to-back, and I couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began. This lack of originality also infects the album’s individual songs. I could predict where some were going on my first listen and I suspect even moderately experienced black metal fans will be able to do the same. Too many of the songs follow similar blueprints, such that the relatively brief 48-minute length contains too many recycled ideas and reheated riffs, which severely limits the replayability factor.

Sworn to Profound Heresy is an album whose mileage with you will vary depending on how much of a second-wave worshiper you are. If you think the modern BM scene, with all its sub-sub-genres, has been watered down to the point of being unrecognizable, and you just want an uncomplicated return to its hey-day, then you’ll devour this thing. It’s a great time, with catchy songs and a pleasing commitment to the aesthetic of yore. If, however, you expect a little more than simple aping of the greats, you will probably be a bit disappointed by the album’s lack of ambition and its unwillingness to explore beyond its limited sandbox. Satan has expanded beyond the 90s; you sometimes wish Sarkrista would, too.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Purity Through Fire
Releases Worldwide: March 21st, 2021

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